Reflections on 12 years as business brokers
We’re delighted and proud to celebrate 12 years in business this summer.
12 years, so what?
In a lot of respects, 12 years is not that big a deal. But what a revolution that 12 years brought.
2005 saw the launch of Google Maps and the beginning of their global domination, and the Nintendo Wii revolutionised gaming. YouTube launched that same year with Facebook and Twitter quickly following in 2006.
The first iPhone didn’t arrive until 2007 and iPads showed up in 2010 only to shrink to a mini in 2012 and regrow recently to a Pro size (how do we keep up?)
We are contactless for payment, Skypeing for global connectivity and Grannies and Grandpa’s all over the globe are one of the fastest growing groups of online users.
We embraced flash drives, waving goodbye to CDs only to move everything to the cloud. Our phones became the centre of the universe and our laptops became detachable, adaptable tablets.
So what effect has it had on the role of a Business Broker?
Since its launch, Uscita has grown and adapted to the changing needs of the market. We thought this was an ideal time to look back on those early years and how the role of a business broker has changed.
The early days
With careers in banking and the corporate sector behind us, and a young family at home, we had reached a turning point in our lives and had decided we wanted to do something for ourselves. Like many of the buyers we speak with today, we couldn’t find a business that was in the right location, the right sector or right price range for us and our search stalled. That’s when we discovered Business Partnership – one of the largest independent business brokers in the UK. It was the perfect match for our skills, experience and ambitions so in 2005 we bought a franchise and became business brokers. We’d bought a business that helped other people to buy and sell businesses!
Over time, we developed our services to complement the offering from Business Partnership and Uscita was born.
The profile of an entrepreneur in 2005 was very different to today. Back then building your own business was a lifetime commitment to create a legacy.
These days, many more business owners are younger entrepreneurs whose motivation to sell is not to take things easy, but to finance their next challenge. There are also more female entrepreneurs. We also conduct many more acquisition searches for these entrepreneurs than we ever did in the early days.
Looking back at our tatty old register from those early years, the nature of our business has shifted too. Our first business sales were retail outlets, a sandwich bar, coffee shop, a care organisation and an engineering company.
No change there. We’ve sold each of these business types in the past 12 months as well as the past 12 years.
What’s changed is the addition of new business types. Internet only retailers or e-commerce businesses. IT service businesses are popular sales, their growth having mirrored the growing consumerism in computer technology. There has also been a gradual shift towards service businesses where good, all-round management expertise are a flexible fit into many different sectors. One of the best parts of the job is the variety of clients and businesses we get to work with.
More options for vendors
In 2005, there was little choice around how to sell your business. Our first meeting with a business owner would take place without any prior research into the company, except for a scant phone call. It took an extensive meeting to make an assessment of the value of the business.
12 years later, and technology is our friend. We analyse the accounts, research the business and make an evaluation before that first meeting. All can be done ahead of any meeting which saves the vendor time in the long run. By default, we are also doing out tiny bit for the environment too. We also offer a choice of packages with different levels of support to suit the vendor’s needs.
One of the biggest changes of the last 12 years is in client communication. Back in 2005 we had broadband speeds a snail could outrun. Many people’s email servers couldn’t cope with large files or high volumes of traffic. There were no smartphones and camera phones were in their infancy. We used to post particulars out to interested buyers, complete forms manually (on paper!), and get real life wet signatures for everything.
You can imagine us arriving back then with a flight case in hand to carry all the necessary bits of paper, contracts, cameras to take pictures of premises. A daunting sight to some. Today we operate a secure online portal where clients have instant access to sales data and most communication is via email. At most we arrive with a slim folio or an iPad in hand. Much easier on the back-ache too.
Nothing can replace the quality of a conversation with someone looking to buy or sell a business, but the reality is that we have fewer of them. Early stage communication, particularly for buyers, is via email and text message. They are the most convenient methods of communication for most people. Conversations are still detailed and fascinating, but come later on in the process.
Marketing > Buyer > Negotiations
The process of selling a business remains unchanged from 12 years ago. We market the business, engage with potential buyers then carry out negotiations on behalf of our client. What has changed is the level of scrutiny at each stage. Legislation dictates that we carry out comprehensive due diligence and other checks. Buyers are savvier and more demanding in their research and banks are more stringent in their lending criteria. It keeps us on our toes.
Online tools make our job easier
Manual checks have been replaced with online searches; HMRC, Companies House, Rates Valuation and Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) research is all carried out online. Tools like Google maps and Streetview allow us to view the business location and surrounding area before we visit. Social media posts, Trip Advisor and other platforms give us a customers perspective on a business.
The nature and way we do business may have changed over the years but we firmly believe we’ve kept up with the pace. Our business proposition, reputation and knowledge of the local area are exemplary. We provide a professional business broker service underpinned by our core values of honesty, integrity and respect. Those are irreplaceable to us.
Change is a good thing. Here’s to the next 12 years!